Dar es Salaam. Iringa-based lawyer has filed a case challenging laws that bar attorneys from advertising and marketing their legal services to the general public.
Mr Geofrey Mwakasege has sought a declaration that certain rules of professional conduct that restrict advocates from advertising their legal services is unconstitutional. In a case he filed on September 14, 2021 at the High Court’s Iringa District Registry, Mr Mwakasege has asked the court to declare unconstitutional Regulation 127 (2) (a, b and c), (3) and (4) of the Advocates (Professional Conduct and Etiquette) Regulations, 2018.
The institution of the case comes at a time bars association in many countries are reversing total ban on advocates to advertise their services. In those countries, lawyers are allowed to market their profession provided the adverts are not misleading and deceptive.
Regulation 127 (2) (a, b and c) of the Advocates (Professional Conduct and Etiquette), 2018 allow advocates to seek business in a manner which is not inconsistence with public interest and that does not compromise integrity and dignity of their profession. Under Regulation 127 (3), advocates are prohibited from advertising business, making public appearances for the purposes promoting their business and being interviewed on own business.
The section also bars advocates from circulating literature in advertising their business or directly or indirectly initiating contacts with the aim of attracting legal work.
An advocate who contravenes the rules can be prosecuted under section 13 (4) of the Advocates Act. Under the section, the Advocates Committee may direct removal from the roll of advocated of an advocated who have been found guilty of breaching the regulations. The section also empowers the committee to admonish the advocate or suspend the advocated from practicing for certain period for contravening the rules.
Mr Mwakasege wants the court to declare that the legal profession is a business like any other lawful business, hence entitled to privileges other businesses enjoy.
Alternatively, he wants the court to declare that the legal profession is a service, hence not subject to any business liability including taxation as the judiciary enjoys.
“The door is open for advocates who share similar views to join this suit,” says Mr Mwakasege.
The case has been scheduled on October 21, 2021 for a mention before Justice John Utamwa.
According to Mr Mwakasege, the regulations that restrict advocates from seeking clients by advertising their business violates the right to work provided under Article 22 (1) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania.
“Article 22 (1) of the constitution gives all individuals the right and equal opportunity to work without any discrimination.
“While the public is in high need of legal professional services from advocates in this modern world of technology and science, with no justifiable reason and logic, the Advocates (Professional Conduct and Etiquette) Regulations, 2018 restrict advertisement of the legal profession business,” argues Mr Mwakasege.
It is his further contention that restricting advocates from advertising their legal services while at the same time requiring them to pay several government taxes from professional practicing has made their work even difficult.
He says the restrictions violate the right to equality provided for under article 13 (1, 2, 3 and 4) of the constitution.
In Tanzania it is mandatory for practicing advocates to register and pay fees to the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) and local authorities for obtaining Tax Identification Number (TIN), Tax Clearance and valid business licences.
The advocated further argues that the restrictions has made it difficult for startup lawyers who are not known to the society to get customer, acquire a reasonable fee and be able to pay the mandatory taxes, let alone money to support their lives and those who depend on them.
Globally, the legal profession has traditionally been considered as one of the noblest and highly respected profession.
Advocates are thus restricted from commercialising their legal services through advertisements for the fear that would lead unhealthy competition and inappropriate fee hikes and could compromise quality of service offered by lawyers.